Some days I send my kids to school in a way I’m not proud of. The mornings can be rough. 

First, they won’t get out of bed. Then they won’t eat breakfast. They don’t want what’s on their plates, and I don’t have what they do want, and an argument ensues. An unnecessary battle that lasts far too long and suddenly the clock says if they don’t get upstairs and dressed RIGHT NOW, they’re going to miss the bus.

If only it were that easy.

Up we go to get dressed and more drama. The outfits I’ve chosen aren’t right. Even though it’s cold, he wants to wear shorts, and even though it’s a gym day, she wants to wear sandals. 

He doesn’t want to brush his teeth. He’s much too busy playing with toys with no socks on, half-dressed, and I’m feeling like I can’t win. When I finally convince him he has to brush at the last minute, he spits toothpaste all over the shirt he insisted on wearing. It’s too late to change even if I could get him to. Which I can’t. Instead, we rush for the bus which is already at the stop and the driver patiently waits because he sees us coming, and I scold, “See we almost missed it because you were messing around!” And I don’t kiss them because a driver behind the bus honksclearly in more of a hurry than we wereand it’s all very chaotic as they scramble up the steps, probably feeling glad to be leaving me and all my instructions behind.

Finally, it’s over and I think, “Thank goodness! Thank goodness they’re someone else’s problem today.”

But then I return to the house. And I clean up the breakfast dishes filled with food they didn’t eat, and I think, “They’re going to be hungry.” And I put away the clothes he wouldn’t wear and I think, “He’s going to be cold,” and, “Her feet are going to hurt at gym.”

And I don’t feel glad they’re gone anymore.

I wish I’d done everything differently. I wish the entire morning had gone better.

I don’t blame them. I blame myself. A million small decisions made by me that created the monster. While they didn’t make things easy for me, I know I had the power to make things happen differently. I should have slowed down and listened and reasoned and let things go. I should have chosen battles instead of letting my frustration get the best of me and letting everything turn into an argument. Things snowballed into ugliness and now all day long, I’m left with feelings of regret. 

Every mom has these days. There are going to be days you don’t have the ability to run the ship smoothly. Your patience will be tried, your anger tested. Your decisions will not warrant rational responses. Not having the type of cereal they want shouldn’t create anarchy. You can’t change that. But you can change your response to it. Instead of letting it heat up, walk away. Instead of getting mad, give them space. Give yourself space. Or laugh. Or pray.

A friend suggested to let them feel the consequences of some of their decisions. If it won’t really hurt them, let it go. If they skip breakfast and feel hunger, perhaps the next day they will not argue over what is on their plates. And if they’re cold because they refused a jacket, they’ll likely wear one the next day without a reminder.

Give yourself a break.

You can’t be a perfect mother. You aren’t a perfect person. You feel emotions. You feel frustration. It just means you’re human.

Learn from your mistakes, too. Give yourself more time. Don’t yell. And always kiss them before they get on the bus, even if a hundred cars are honking. No one should be able to take that away from you. Show them you love them, remind them . . . remind yourself. Today is only one day. There is always tomorrow.

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Caroline Murray

Caroline is a freelance writer, mama to two young children and one sweet baby.  She loves everything country and tries not to take anything too seriously.  You can see more of her at